The United States will respond with “major retaliation” should Iran attack U.S. interests in the wake of the killing of the regime’s top strategist and terror chief Qasem Soleimani, President Donald Trump said.
On Saturday night, Trump responded to threats of revenge from Iran, tweeting: “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”
As for Democrats in Congress who continue to charge that they should have been informed of Trump’s order to take out Soleimani, the president suggested they simply read his Twitter feed.
“These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner,” Trump said “Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”
Related: Flashback: Obama launched 2,800 airstrikes without approval of Congress, January 5, 2020
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Sunday, Trump also doubled down on the sites in Iran being appropriate for retaliation.
“They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. they’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way,” the president said.
Asked about retaliation from Iran for the killing of Soleimani, Trump replied, “If it happens it happens. If they do anything there will be major retaliation.”
Trump was also asked about the possibility of U.S. forces being forced out of Iraq.
“We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that’s there. It cost billions of dollars to build, long before my time. We’re not leaving unless they pay us back for it,” Trump said.
Following Solemani’s killing, which occurred on Iraqi soil, the Iraqi parliament passed a non-binding resolution disinviting the 5,000 American troops there and revoking their request for U.S. military assistance.
Trump said that if Iraq asked U.S. forces to leave and it was not done on a friendly basis, “we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame. If there’s any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions on Iraq.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that the world “is a safer place today” following the elimination of Soleimani, who headed up the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
“It’s very clear the world’s a safer place today. Qasem Soleimani no longer walks the planet,” Pompeo said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC News. “You know the history: hundreds of thousands of people in Syria, millions of refugees; Lebanon, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, Yemen; deaths to Americans in Iraq in the earlier war. This was a bad guy. We took him off the playing field.”
Pompeo said that Soleimani “was the glue, who was conducting active plotting against the United States of America and putting American lives at risk. President Trump made the right decision to stop Qasem Soleimani from the terror campaign that he’d been engaged in against America not only five years ago and ten years ago, but on December 27th, when an American was killed by Kataib Hizbullah at the orchestrated direction of Qasem Soleimani, and to prevent the future plans that the terrorist Soleimani had in front of him.”
Asked if the Trump administration’s Iran strategy is working, Pompeo replied: “Absolutely, George. Remember what happened during this terrible nuclear deal: hundreds of thousands killed in Syria; Shia militias, the ones that we’re fighting today, underwritten, resource growing, taking control in places like Iraq; missiles fired from Yemen that could easily have killed Americans when they attacked on September 14th. All of these things – these things were ongoing activities resourced and funded by the trade and the money that was provided under the JCPOA.”
He noted that as of October the Iran nuclear deal “will permit arms trade with Iran. That’s crazy. That’s crazy – have missiles and systems – high-end systems, from China and Russia in Iran lawfully in October. That was the deal we inherited. It’s the place we found ourselves, and we’re working diligently to execute our strategy to convince the Iranian regime to act like a normal nation. The Iranian people are demanding it. We’re supporting it, and we will be successful.”
“In the past, previous administrations had allowed Shia militias to take shots at us, and at best, we responded in theater, trying to challenge and attack everybody who was running around with an AK-47 or a piece of indirect artillery,” Pompeo said. “We’ve made a very different approach. We’ve told the Iranian regime enough. You can’t get away with using proxy forces and think your homeland will be safe and secure. We’re going to respond against the actual decision makers, the people who are causing this threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran. We’re going to take this seriously, and we’re going to defend the American people at every turn.”
Pompeo continued: “The American people should know that every target that we strike will be a lawful target, and it will be a target designed at the singular mission of protecting and defending America. President Trump has been diligent about that. He doesn’t want war. He’s talked about this repeatedly. He is a reluctant participant in this, but he will never shy away from protecting America.”
Pompeo rejected criticism from former Vice President Joe Biden who said that any further action against Iran requires congressional authorization.
“Boy, it’s really something to hear the vice president from the previous administration be critical of this administration’s policy on Iran. We’re having to clean up their mess, George. We’ll do everything required under the law to bring us into compliance with all the relevant constitutional and legal provisions with respect to our duties to the legislative branch.”